An Exercise in Interactive Learning

I’m always anxious and willing to try new technology in the classroom. This semester my small experiments using Poll Everywhere have worked better in all my classes than any other semester so far. Part of it has been me learning how to use their system, part of it getting their system to work in the classroom and with everything else going on, and getting it simple enough to explain in a quick second so it doesn’t take precious classroom time. The Poll Everywhere technology has recently really improved, too. (Before students had to text a special unique code for each different question with their response, now they text one code once – explained below.) 

In my HIST1378 (United States History Since 1877) class, we used this today and had a lot of fun. They said we need to do this more often!

After going over the syllabus and our first lesson, I asked students to text “PEGODA” to 37607, if they didn’t mind participating and had a phone that could text. (There is also a way to do it with Twitter and a URL, but we didn’t use those today.) I explained that all answers are fully anonymous and not graded and that they might be part of a blog!     

I then opened the first poll. The prompt was “Today I Learned:” Results below. While not all were exactly correct, we had just gone over the information and were able to immediately clarify some points. Students who hadn’t spoken, “spoke.”  

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We then took a multiple choice review question. One of the students suggested that next time I should hide answers until everyone has answered so the “popular choice” doesn’t get more popular for that reason alone. I think that is possible. 

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We did one more review question in our test of the system. “What is History” was the prompt. (Regular readers will know I’m really big on the difference between history and History.) Responses were: 

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Word Clouds can also display results: 

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I’m interested in whether many other college classes have ever used these and what the experience has been? I’m interested in using this method of Q&A more often. It only took about 2-3 minutes per question – 5-6 all together, so not bad at all. The free system for higher education only records 40 responses and does not track responses, so it couldn’t be used for any graded work or attendance. I kind of like that it is fully anonymous to me and to other responders. The paid system is a few hundred dollars a year and allows unlimited responses, group competitions or something, and allows the instructor to track students. I worry that such tracking would result in a loss of magic. Thoughts, dear readers and fellow educators?